The most maddening thing about Arsenal’s Christmas and new year campaign has been the outright inconsistency of it.
Although the Gunners have been unbeaten since an unfortunate defeat to Manchester United last month, they have drawn games against the likes of Southampton, West Brom, and West Ham since then.
Those were all games the team would have been looking at as opportunities to get three points and build up some momentum going into January. Instead, the team has huffed and puffed and generally veered from the sublime to the ridiculous.
In short, the Gunners have often struggled to find their form and, when at last they have found an iota of cohesion, they have lost it again in the blink of an eye.
What irks fans most of all is the absolute lottery of performance from a group of clearly capable players. The Liverpool game some two weeks ago was perhaps the perfect example of that Jekyll and Hyde-style that is fast becoming our stock in trade.
After a woeful performance for some 55-60 minutes, the Gunners suddenly turned into vintage 1970s Brazil and blew Liverpool away, turning a two-goal deficit into a narrow advantage inside 10 minutes.
Having worked so hard to find their way back into the game, with some quite mesmeric football played, they contrived to surrender the three points.
It was a game that summed up the team perfectly; changeable.
This is a group of players capable of hammering top four rivals Tottenham in consummate fashion and equally as capable of making awful teams like Southampton and West Brom look vaguely coherent.
Something is just not right. Whether it is disharmony in the squad, fatigue, lack of application, poor tactics, or the weather, something about this team is not as it should be.
If you lose every game and play awful football, at least you know where you stand as a fan. But that simply isn’t the case with Arsenal. Yes, they have produced some codswallop over the last month, but they have also shown just how scintillating they can be at their best, even if it has only ever been for brief periods in the odd game.
In many ways, this January transfer window could prove extremely important for Arsene Wenger as he seeks to get his team playing at their best week in and week out. While we all accept that this team isn’t anywhere near good enough to challenge for the league, it should be more than good enough to compete for a top four place, but it may take some ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ before that becomes certain.
I can’t help but feel that if Arsene tries to muddled through to the end of the season with the squad as it is, we could fail on all four fronts and end the season with a feeling of murderous ill-feeling around the club.
A couple of really strong signings, however, might just give us enough juice in the tank to get us back among the points on a consistent basis and fighting to finish as high as we possibly can.
What’s certain is that we can’t continue to lumber from one week to the next, never really knowing if we are going to play well or produce a fresh helping of abject dross, the type of football which turns victories in draws and see us slide towards the depths of fifth and sixth place, never to emerge.
Tomorrow’s match against Chelsea will, in all likelihood, see more of the same. With an injury-depleted squad, and a group of players who will be down in the dumps after late frustration against the Baggies, it is perfectly possible they could be overawed by Antonio Conte’s men.
It is just as possible, however, that they will recapture their best form in time to spank the Blues and gain some much-needed ground on the sides above them.
While that might be thoroughly exciting for the neutral and for the league, it is no good whatsoever for the club and for the fans. We can’t go on in this vein. Something has to either click or collapse.